The evening of Friday the 26th of Jan 2007 saw a group of enthusiastic Grade 12 girls, teachers and NMMU academics converge on the Noorspoort Guest Farm for the start of Operation Starlight. Operation Starlight is an innovative Physics initiative aimed at bringing together a culturally diverse group of female learners from the Nelson Mandela Metropole in an informal learning environment. The Noorspoort Guest Farm played host to this weekend event, providing the ideal environment to blend fun outdoor activities such as hikes, bush drives, ethnic drumming and stargazing with the various academic activities presented by academics and post-graduate students of the NMMU Physics Department. The girls were given ample opportunity to interact with the NMMU physicists in a relaxed setting, and to gain an understanding of the value of Physics to South Africa. The girls were given two primary messages to take back to their schools: that there are many exciting career opportunities available to young women venturing into the field of Physics, and that Physics is not a subject to be feared but rather a challenge to be embraced with enthusiasm by young men and women who want to make a difference in this country. To further enrich the experience for the girls, all the outdoor activities were complimented by presence of experienced Noorspoort guides, a NMMU botanist, a NMMU geologist, and the NMMU student cosmology society, COSMOS.
This pilot project, which drew participation from ten schools, is a first for Port Elizabeth and the Eastern Cape. It is hoped that the success of this event will pave the way for many more similar events that will bring together the talented young people of our province who will become our future scientists and the academics who are the backbone of the science infrastructure in South Africa. Operation Starlight is a bold initiative designed and implemented by the Physics Department of the NMMU and sponsored by WiPiSA, the Women in Physics division of the South African Institute of Physics.
For more information on Operation Starlight, please contact the project co-ordinator, Dr Pearl Berndt.
Tel: +27 (0) 41 504 1111
Fax: +27 (0) 41 504 2574 / 2731
PO Box 77000, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
Port Elizabeth, 6031, South Africa
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